Bursts of light echoed out across the sky, scything apart the air itself.

"Princess! We need to get you to safety!"

The girl turned to look at her rahjin, then sighed.

"I want to fight."

"No!"

"Fine. I don't want to survive this; I want to help."

Her chief rahjin opened his mouth, but an explosion erupted nearby, knocking them all off of their feet.

"Inside!"

They yanked her off of her feet and dragged her inside, the heels of the flightsuit numbing the pain of skin being dragged across raw stone.

"Stay there," he ordered, the princess standing confused in the chamber. The other two rahjin worked on forcing a solid, iron door closed, sealing them inside.

"What do you want me to do?" she asked, still confused.

"Over there," the chief replied, gesturing to an area near the wall. She duly walked over there, then turned to look at him.

"And the-"

Before she finished the chief had pressed a button, causing a near-transparent barrier to slam down. It blocked all sound, leaving her to slam her fists against it, only a faint thunk emerging. Her chief rahjin tinkered with the control panel until he was satisfied, before standing back and turning to face the door, rifle raised.

The princess screamed in fear. Was she to be trapped here, without rescue? She had no idea, but within seconds a cool liquid began pooling around her ankles. It was almost gel-like, a calm corner of her brain reflected, faint green in colour.

The rest of her brain replied with How long have I been thinking?! as it realised that the gel was already filling the not exactly tiny barrier up to her breasts. She could only watch in horror as it rose, covering her head. Much to her relief, she could still breathe, but-

An explosion rang out, strong enough to throw her away from the wall and backwards through the gel until she was about halfway across it-right in the middle. By now the barrier was full, her body slowly floating upwards until she floated in more-or-less the exact centre of the barrier/tank, so she looked up to see her rahjin in a fierce duel. Nyankar combat mecha were dueling them, one of the junior rahjin already having been disemboweled by their blades. One turned, saw her and began sprinting in her direction, but metal plates slammed down-

Total darkness.

Where am I?

Anyone?

"Anyone?"


"This the artifact?"

"Yeah-it's just a lump of iron."

"Pure iron," one of the techs said. "That's really rare. And not natural."

"Alright," the director sighed. "Proceed with artifact activation."

"Understood!"

Gabrielle Davey, scientist in charge of the expedition to this artifact, turned and faced the control panel. All that was left was a flat plane, so she placed her hand upon it. For several eternal seconds nothing happened, until it lit up a shade of angry red.

"Dammit," she said, but a grinding shook the cave. The giant iron plate, like an arch dam, slowly slid downwards, revealing-

"What's a girl doing in there?" Davey asked, confused. The girl in question looked to be fifteen at most, with hip-length black hair. Other than that, she wore a skintight green suit, though that colour was distorted by the liquid inside.

Within seconds, the transparent barrier that kept the liquid in place rose suddenly, causing it to spill everywhere. The girl was dragged out with it, and she stood up weakly.

"Pero tique soro kara!" she yelled, seeing Davey.

After a second she paused and bowed, then looked at her again.

"Pero soro kara? Arey soro dare nare nyankar?"

Gabrielle looked at her like she had two heads.

"Hirre," the girl sighed. "Kara hanjii hasonote kara, han kara?"

Gabrielle blinked. "Vaughn, Foster. Bring her in so we can get some linguistics experts to analyse her."

The two soldiers walked out from behind the girl and reached out for one of her arms each. They had only barely touched her when she darted forwards and span round.

"Rahjin!" she yelled, only to pause. "Tique."

With that she charged Vaughn, kicking him in the chest and causing him to stagger back. She then pivoted and punched Foster, causing him to stagger back as well. One of the watching soldiers charged her in response, but before he could she had darted to the side. Davey tried to follow her, only to realise that she must be using a jetpack or similar device.

"Capture her!" Davey cried, as she darted around to spot potential opponents. She spotted one raising a gun, so she began to turn to fight-

Searing pain erupted on the back of her head, causing her to collapse right there.

"Woah, you didn't need to tase her!" Davey cried.

"You wanted her captured!" Vaughn replied.

Davey sighed. "I guess I did. Get her to the helicopter."

With that, she turned and walked out of the cavern, up some steps and into the blinding sun. A few metres away a helicopter emblazoned with the logo of the UNSC whirred angrily, grass fluttering beneath its blades.

Well. We came to find an artifact, and we find a girl. Just what is she?